BYOB: An 8,000 Year History of Wine Transportation

Wine has been around for a while. In ancient times when clean water was scarce, wine kept humans alive…and probably perpetually buzzed. Wine was the drink of the gods. Wine was an integral part of numerous rituals and religious services. And, for as long as humans have been drinking wine, we’ve been trying to travel with wine.

As we conquer new lands or journey to visit friends and allies in neighboring territories, humans love to BYOB. First, we just brought the whole plant with us, packing and trading vine cuttings around the world. Then, we tackled the challenge of transporting finished wine across countries, continents and oceans.

Every innovation and invention begins with a question. In the case of transporting wine, the question was “How can we transport this delicious wine from Point A to Point B safely and efficiently without compromising the quality of the precious cargo?”

With that, the BYOB challenge was set. Humankind set forth to develop a wine storage vessel that could accomplish the following:

  • Prevent oxidization — keep air out of the vessel!

  • Withstand the journey — be strong and not too breakable, but also not too heavy for the transportation of the time

  • Reseal — travel is tough, we need to be able to open, imbibe and reseal as we go

  • Not contaminate the wine — the vessel itself shouldn’t interact with the wine, in the early days this seemed pretty unattainable

  • Maintain temperature — wine needs to be kept at specific temperatures or else the flavor and quality can be compromised or even ruined

If you’ve ever doubted our species love and commitment to wine, consider that this endeavor was a big priority to early humans. Developing the plow, building the pyramids, inventing flushing toilets, discovering the power of steam, these things were all well and good, but how could we enjoy them if we couldn’t bring wine with us?

Over the course of our next few Skolnik Wine blogs, we’ll examine over 8,000 years of wine history and technical wine transport accomplishments – from aniquated ceramic and clay jugs, to familiar glass bottles, oak barrels, and, our favorite at Skolnik, the stainless steel wine barrel.